Why is proofreading important?

On 20 March, 2011, in Business writing, by STTS Training Pte Ltd

Have you ever proofread a letter, leaflet or information sheet 20 times, then printed out 10,000 copies, only for someone to look at it and point out a glaring error? Yes I guess we've all been there, done that! If you are responsible for proofreading important documents (and aren't all documents important, including every email message you send?) then here are my tips for effective proofreading:

1.           Avoid distractions. It's best to proofread in a quiet environment, with no disturbances such as phones, background conversation etc.

2.            Read the work out loud. Using proper intonation will help you to spot faulty sentence construction as well as bad punctuation and grammar. Remember to articulate every word, especially the endings.

3.           Concentrate on reading one word at a time. This takes practice. It's fairly common to skim over the words when we read normally. Try to make a conscious effort to stare at each word in turn. This isn't as slow as it sounds – it's just a different reading technique, and it helps.

4.            Read one line at a time. This is useful for longer documents – use a ruler to guide your eyes so that you don't miss the odd line.

5.           Take a break occasionally. Again with longer documents, you need a break now and again. Everyone loses concentration after a while, so set a time limit and then take a break.

6.            Look for inconsistencies in style and presentation. This applies to things like headings that suddenly switch from capitals to lower case, or a change in font or spacing.

7.            Leave some time between writing and proofreading. Reading with a fresh approach will help you to spot more errors.

8.            Print out a hard copy for the final proofreading. Somehow we always manage to miss a few errors if we rely on proofreading on screen.

9.            Keep your knowledge of punctuation and grammar up to date. Unless you know what is correct, you cannot spot mistakes.

10.             Ask someone else to do a final check of important documents. It’s funny how we tend to be able to find other people's mistakes much more easily than our own!